Accessibility links

Breaking News

Thailand's FM Travels to Burma to Discuss Aung San Suu Kyi's Detention - 2003-09-25

Thailand's foreign minister has traveled to Rangoon as part of concerted regional efforts to have Burma's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi released before a summit of Southeast Asian leaders next month. Surakiart Sathirathai, arrived in Rangoon Thursday to hold talks with Burma's top leader, General Than Shwe, and the recently-appointed Prime Minister, General Khin Nyunt.

Thailand, along with Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, key members of the Association the South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, has been pressing for the release of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and for Burma's military government to move towards political reform.

Mr. Surakiart's visit comes just a day after an Indonesian special envoy, former Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, left Rangoon having failed to secure a time frame for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr. Alatas was dispatched by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri on the same mission as that of the Thai foreign minister. He said the on-going detention of the democracy activist was becoming increasingly "counter-productive" to Burma's interests.

Indonesia will host the ASEAN summit on the resort island of Bali starting October 7. Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow says Aung San Suu Kyi's situation threatens to overshadow important issues of economic adjustment and regional security. "We hope that by that time we'll have the situation whereby - or in which - all the ASEAN countries can focus - really focus - on the very important issues we have to deal with."

Mr. Sihasak says ASEAN and its individual members have made their feelings about Aung San Suu Kyi quite clear to the Burmese leaders. "I think they know what is in the best interests of Myanmar and what is in the best interests of ASEAN."

ASEAN previously stood by a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states. But concern over Burma's human rights record and pressure from the European Union and the United States have led ASEAN to press Burma - an ASEAN member since 1997 - to reconcile with Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, or NLD.

Aung San Suu Kyi remains in a Rangoon hospital recuperating from surgery last week. Until the operation, she had been detained since May 30 at an undisclosed location near Rangoon, after her political convoy was attacked in northern Burma by government supporters.

The military government says she is in protective custody, and will be released when the political situation cools.

The NLD won national elections in May 1990, but the government refused to hand over power and instead stepped up suppression of NLD leaders and members. Prime Minister Khin Nyunt has promised that the government will support free and fair elections, but has provided no schedule.